December 2010 U.S. Poverty Action

One Last Push for Tax Credits for Low-Income Working Families, and Start Preparing for the New Congress

Congress is currently debating the fate of the Bush tax cuts, including the extension of the 2009 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) improvements. On December 2, the House passed the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 by a vote of 234-188. This bill extended the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers on their first $200,000 of income ($250,000 for married couples). Because of the hard work of RESULTS activists and many others, the bill includes a permanent extension of the $3,000 income eligibility threshold for the Child Tax Credit and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for married couples enacted in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These expansions have helped millions of low-income working Americans make ends meet.

Unfortunately, the tax fight is not over. Some in Congress are pushing who want all the Bush tax cuts for incomes over $200,000 extended. On December 4, the Senate failed to get the necessary votes to pass middle class tax legislation that included all of the ARRA expansions to the EITC and CTC. Time is running out to extend these taxes; they will expire on December 31. The White House and Congressional leaders are close to a compromise deal which could be voted on as soon as Wednesday, December 8, and it’s key that the 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC are included. It is unconscionable that Congress would raise taxes on low-income working families while cutting taxes for millionaires. The next few days will decide the fate of tax policies that help millions of low-income families. So, make one more phone call, talk to your tax aide, write a letter, send an e-mail, set up a conference call — whatever ways you can best get a final message to your representatives and senators in support of making permanent the 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC. Here is what you can say:

  1. Introduce yourself as a constituent and a RESULTS volunteer.
  2. Voice your support for policies that help low-income working families, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Both encourage people to work, even when their jobs pay too little to live on, and promote responsibility as families work to create a better future for their children.
  3. Remind them that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) expansions to Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) are set to expire at the end of this year.
  4. Illustrate the impact by sharing local or state data from Citizens for Tax Justice, stories, or by telling them that a minimum wage family with two children working full-time currently receives a Child Tax Credit of about $1,750. If Congress does not act to extend the current levels, that family’s CTC will drop to $250, a $1,500 loss, a significant blow to their already limited budget.
  5. Urge your representative to tell House and Senate leadership to make sure that the 2009 ARRA provisions on the EITC and CTC are made permanent, or at least extended with middle class tax cuts, before they expire at the end of 2010. Specifically:
    • Make the $3,000 CTC income eligibility threshold permanent.
    • Make the ARRA EITC improvements for married couples and larger families permanent
  6. Thank them for their time and attention. Note: if you are writing members of Congress after the final tax deal has been reached and approved, please thank them for their work to extend critical tax credits for millions of low-income families if it’s appropriate to do so.

To find contact information, including telephone numbers and addresses for congressional offices and the names of the tax staffer, visit our Elected Officials page (http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/). For directory assistance, you can also contact the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Power Mapping the New Congress

Once you have taken action to preserve improvements to the EITC and CTC for working families, start planning how you can best influence the 112th Congress being sworn in in January. Because many new members of Congress will be coming to Washington and the political balance of power will be different, we want to get started on how best to move members of Congress to make ending domestic poverty a priority.

Power mapping is a creative way to begin that process. Power mapping is an exercise designed to maximize your connection and influence around a particular person, issue or group. By identifying the key players around a specific target you want to influence, you can find the common connections that will help create that influence. For example, if you are trying to influence a new member of Congress, you would look to identify the people and groups he/she regularly listens to. Next you identify the persons or groups who influence those people. And the process continues until you find the direct connection to you or your group. The key is to identify the most direct and influential connection between you and your target.

Our goal in this exercise is to “power map” a member of Congress. Perhaps it is a newly elected representative or senator that you want to influence on a particular poverty issue. Or perhaps it is a returning member of Congress that you have not had success in influencing in the past and you want to try new ways of doing so. Regardless of your target, you want to find as many of those leverage points you can that have the potential to move him/her to your side on an issue. The process is fairly simple but will require creative thinking and some research. Here are the steps you and your group can go through:

  1. Select your target.  The target could be an advocacy target (elected official or other decision maker) or an outreach target (group or constituency that you would like to involve in RESULTS).
  2. Analyze who and what are important to your target.
    • What issues do they care about?
    • What groups or constituencies do they listen to?
    • What media sources do they read and respond to?
    • What types of information are they likely to be persuaded by – data, personal stories, etc.?
  3. Analyze your network and resources in relation to your target.
    • Do you have any connections to the items listed in #2?
    • What groups are allied with you on this issue?
  4. What concrete steps can you take to mobilize your network and resources to influence your target?

Download this worksheet to answer the questions listed in the box. Place your target’s name in the center circle (step 1), the answers to step 2 in the middle circle and then the answers to step 33 on the outer circle. Your goal is to create the strongest links between you (outside the circle) and your target. Once you have identified your connections, decide what concrete steps you can take influence your target on your issue using those connections.

Here is an example of power mapping RESULTS Iowa volunteers used a few years ago in relation to food stamps. In 2007, RESULTS sought an increase in food stamp benefits, which at the time averaged about $1 per meal, in the new Farm Bill. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee at the time, was responsible for writing that legislation. Although Sen. Harkin was already a champion for people living in poverty, RESULTS Iowa volunteers wanted to send a strong message to this important legislator about need for higher food stamp benefits (Step 1). In the fall of 2007, our volunteers learned that Sen. Harkin would be speaking at a local poverty summit. RESULTS volunteers and local allies looked for the most effective way to put this issue before him at the event. Because the event was coordinated by the local Methodist church, the Bishop for the Iowa Methodist Conference, who represents thousands of Methodists in the state, would be there and would be having lunch with the senator (Step 2). RESULTS and our allies approached fellow advocates in the Methodist conference about asking the Bishop to talk Sen. Harkin about this issue during their lunch (Step 3). The Bishop agreed and RESULTS volunteers subsequently briefed the Bishop on the food stamps and even provided him with an EPIC Laser Talk and talking points to look over before the lunch (Step 4). The Bishop then discussed it with Sen. Harkin at lunch, and he agreed to work on it. In the final bill, food stamps benefits were indeed increased. By taking advantage of this opportunity and taking a few minutes to strategize the most effective way to influence the senator, RESULTS volunteers used their network connections and resources to send a powerful message to this key legislator.

Again, the key in this process is to be creative. Don’t just look at the logical connections between you and your member of Congress. Research that person using the internet, the newspaper, or our Elected Officials Page to find those unusual or uncommon leverage points. By doing this exercise, you will help maximize your influence, this in turn will accelerate the process of creating the political will to end poverty in America, once and for all. For a more detailed explanation of power mapping, go to http://www.bonner.org/resources/modules/modules_pdf/BonCurPower mapping.pdf.

Be sure to join us for the December 2010 Joint Global and Domestic National Conference Call — Saturday, December 11, at 2:00 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 1:58 pm ET.